I came across Big Boss on my dude Alexis Gautier's website in his "Demo Zone" in which he posted links to as many demos as he could from every corner of the world and for some reason I listened to all of them. I first heard the second demo, which immediately caught my attention since it was mastered by Will Killingsworth and mixed at the Paincave. Holy crap. Then I saw Big Boss was from Tyumen, Russia. Where??
My geography-obsessed brain exploded. It's in fucking Siberia between Omsk and Yekaterinberg. If you know as much as I do about hockey, you know exactly where that is. A few clicks of the internet later and I was listening to the first Big Boss demo. Guitars, bass, vocals, drums, all by Dasha Katysheva. There has to be a story and I want to bring it to all of you.
This interview was conducted from July 2019 to February 2020 and Dasha's opinions and approach are definitely unique.
Start off by telling me a little about where you are from.
I’m from Tyumen. It’s a relatively big city in West Siberia, Russia. Nothing special about it, though. People think that there’s lots of gas and oil but in fact there’s none. It’s all in the north. But because it’s a regional center and many offices of the oil and gas companies are located there, it’s a rich city and more or less comfortable for living. However, I was pretty bored there, especially because there was no scene, and I failed to help to develop it.
The lack of people was also one of the reasons why I started Big Boss on my own. Now I live in Leipzig, Germany and study Computer Science. Probably I’ll move to Berlin soon.
How did hardcore/punk make it to you out in Tyumen?
I think there’s nothing special about my story. I knew about hardcore through the Internet in 2009. Before, I mostly listened to the bands that I thought were punk but those were just the mainstream ones, like The Offspring, for example. I discovered the term punk maybe in 2002 when I was 9 or 10 years old. It was kinda popular among teenagers at that time. So, I started listened to some bands that people called punk because I was quite curious about it. But I never considered myself a punk, to be honest. I just liked heavy aggressive music. There was also a point where some new metal bands that were popular in 2000s were added to my playlist. Then I got into skateboarding and I also started playing some games from the Tony Hawk series.
I remember that there were a few hardcore punk bands in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. I really liked the soundtrack and I was so happy when I managed to extract the music files from the game. I still wasn’t aware of hardcore punk term at that point because neither I had the Internet nor I knew any people who could know something about it. When I hit 17, I really got sick of the lifestyles of my peers and the other people that surrounded me. Almost everyone drank or smoked or maybe even tried some drugs but I wasn’t interested in it at all. I was an outsider for many reasons. I also decide to go vegetarian, which didn’t make it any better.
One evening, I was looking for some new bands to listen to on the Internet when I came across two-word term that later became a really important part of my life. Those words were "straight edge." After reading some articles that I could find about it, I felt that that thing was for me. I also found out what hardcore was.
I started looking for the bands and I think the first hardcore band I heard was Gorilla Biscuits. In general, I listened to a lot of Youth Crew stuff during the first years. Anyway, may some people blame it, but if there had been no Internet, I would have never heard neither about hardcore nor straight edge.
Was there a scene in Tyumen at all? Probably some punks but anyone into what we consider hardcore?
Looking back, I can’t really say that there’s ever been a hardcore scene. When I got into hardcore, there was a trend to be straight edge, I think. So, there were some kids in Tyumen too but not more than ten people, if I remember correctly. I was even suggested to play in a band but then got quickly kicked out because neither my guitar nor bass skills were good enough for the band. But I never regretted it because the band sucked anyway. Most of the people changed their interests or even views or broke edge pretty fast. For some, it, maybe, took a couple of years. So at some point, I was probably the only straight edge kid left in the city.
What was always frustrating for me most is that most of people didn’t really try to develop their music taste and weren’t interested in good bands. Some of them were more into politics like Antifascism or Anarchism stuff then into the music itself. Therefore, I never really felt connected to those people. I’m not an activist and hardcore wasn’t really associated with that stuff for me. In 2013, I managed to become friends with one guy in Tyumen who had moved there recently. He’d never been straight edge but he was into good bands (UK82 mostly, though).
We decided to start a band. We played mostly covers and, unfortunately, always struggled to find people on bass because there were none interested. After a while, that friend of mine decided to leave the band. So, only the drummer and I left. I wrote a few songs but we never managed to record them for obvious reasons.
I hope someday I’ll be able to do it because I still kinda like them, they’re different from what I usually try to write and that Poison Idea cover was really good [laughs]. Moving from Tyumen was the best decision for me because now I have opportunity to go to shows more often, and I can finally play and tour with bands. I don’t think there’s any hardcore scene there now. It looks like nowadays hardcore is not that interesting for younger generations in most parts of the world in general and I don’t see any reason why it should be different for my hometown. Sad but true.
How would you tie Russian culture into punk/hardcore? Or as something to rebel against?
Oh, it’s a very difficult question for me. Seriously, I started to answer it for a few times. I think it’s more like the latter. I think many aspects of it are different from the Russian culture, that’s why you might not find that much understanding among your peers or older generations. Especially the latter, because there’s a really huge gap between us and our parents. They all grew up in a different country that doesn’t exist anymore. Also, it seems to me that many subcultures that come to this land are interpreted differently and not quite correct, which creates a distorted image of them. It’s hard to explain it.
Anyway, of course there are people who knows well about hardcore or punk. Especially nowadays, when most of people have the internet. But maybe not too many are open for changes. For example, it looks like some people are sceptical about the feministic tendencies in hardcore scene. Anyway, I didn’t go travel to that many shows in Russia, since I didn’t have money for it at that time and I usually preferred to see a band that I love in Europe. So, I’m not the best person to tell you about it.
Was Big Boss only you in the beginning?
Yes, and it still is. I don’t have a steady lineup despite moving to another country. Usually, it’s just people invite me to play a show somewhere and they learn the songs. I’m not sure at this point if Big Boss will stop being a one-person band. It’s harder to find people nearby who would be interested and could find time to play this style of hardcore on a regular basis than it seems. I’m also being more concentrated on my other bands now.
Shout out your other bands right now.
I’ve just recently become a member of a hardcore band of my friends from Leipzig called Savage. I’ve been also working on another band that doesn’t have a name yet for a while. I think it’s more in the vein of RZL DZL. I hope it’ll work out because it’s been kinda hard for me to write new riffs lately. I’m also a member of an international band Chronic Abuse, which is a mix of USHC and UK82. We went on our first two-week Euro tour last September. Sometimes I also fill in in some other bands on bass or guitar. So far it was Night Force and The Fog who asked me to do it.
I hope people learn to open their eyes to punk and hardcore from other parts of the world.
That's a good intention. You can always discover some gems in other parts of the world. Or just something inspiring. Like if we're even speaking about Big Boss, people from Outburst couldn't imagine that someone could cover their song in Siberia. Well, here we are, now there's a whole international tribute compilation.
I miss when Alexis from Straight and Alert did the "Demo Zone." I heard so many great bands from all over the world.
Yeah, it was a great section. Too bad he must be too busy to mantain it now.
Now that you have spent time in both Russia and further west in Europe, what are the main differences in the punk scenes besides what may be obvious to most of us? After you answer that question I want to ask you about February 15, 2013…
Difficult question for me, since I haven’t experienced both scenes enough, so it would be smart not to judge by my opinion. First of all, the people are different at least because their mentality and the surrounding conditions are different. It seems to me that people in Europe are more open-minded and more concerned about the rights of women, lgbtq+, immigrants, people of color, etc. In some ways the scene in Germany is also very different from the rest of the Europe. For example, from what I’ve heard, you’d better think twice before speaking out some pro-Palestine/anti-Israel stuff, especially on the stage. You probably won’t find much understanding.
I also noticed that in Germany, especially Berlin, unless there’s some big show, which people travel to, people barely go crazy or mosh to bands. I think people in Russia appreciate the local and touring bands more. The shows here also start pretty late. It also looks like people in the German scene are more spread out around the country, unlike Russia, where people tend to move either to Moscow or St. Petersburg. I might be wrong but the differences between the scenes in those two cities and in the province are drastic, while in Germany it’s not that noticeable.
Also, speaking about the surroundings, due to economic reasons (and not only) people in Russia have to “grow up” earlier, that’s why a lot of them become less active and lose touch faster. In addition, both scenes lack new and young people nowadays. Those are probably not all the differences, but I can’t think of anything else right now.
What do you remember about the Meteor on Feb 15, 2013?
I barely remember anything, to be honest. At that moment I was probably sitting at a lecture at university. Chelyabinsk is about seven hours away from my hometown, so I knew about the Meteor from the news (I couldn't see or feel anything). When I was watching it on TV I remember seeing blown-out windows of some Chelyabinsk buildings because of the shock wave. There were also tons of videos from dashcams of its falling. I was pretty surprised, to say the least, and excited, especially because it seemed to happen not so far away. However, it looks like I forgot about it pretty fast like of most people, I guess. I can't remember any details, for example its exact location, what's happened when it was discovered, etc.
I may wrap it up there. Do you have anything else to say?
Thank you very much for the interview. Sorry that I'm a very slow interviewee The last words: keep hardcore DIY and away from Revolver, Kerrang!, etc.
Wow! Heavy words!
[Laughs] Sorry. I'm not trying to be edgy but it's just how I feel at this point, afraid that it may have an impact on the zine culture or how the music is made in general.